Trail running 32:33'21.4, 120.5 km
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc/TDS (Trace des Ducs de Savoie)
A big big race...
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc/TDS (Trace des Ducs de Savoie)
A big thanks for all your warm messages during the race of Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc/TDS (Trace des Ducs de Savoie)
It has been a really tough race, and truly rewarding to go through such a stunning scenery.
Overall I'm very happy to have found the required energy to go through this amazing journey.
For those interested, I have documented below a summary of the event.
The day before the race, the weather was really bad with heavy rain. The river crossing Chamonix was almost going overboard.
After a short night, we boarded the bus at 4:45Am. The route to Courmayeur takes 1h, and goes through the tunnel du Mont-Blanc. We arrived still at night, and gathered in the sports center, where we could relax before the race, and warm up/stretch. I got my hamstrings injured at the end of July, and thought I would not be able to join this race. Fortunately with some rest, and daily care, my condition is just ok. 30 mins before the race kick off, we headed to the start line, approximately 1km from the sports center. A few hundred runners are already lined up.
Shortly before 7am, music started, an helicopter flew above to capture the event, and all runners began to feel the beginning of the adventure.
The start was given, and the flow of runners rushed towards a long journey. On my side, I decided it was time to warm up slowly while enjoying the atmosphere and scenery.
After crossing the village of Courmayeur where many people were outside their place to support us, we started the first climb towards the Arête du Mont Favre. It is the entrance to the big mountains. While the group of runners is still compact, I got the chance to meet with some Japanese runners, and take pictures of the stunning scenery. The mountains are high, with snow in many areas. This section until Col Chavannes is beautiful, however extremely windy. Fortunately the path to the top is zigzagging and the wind can also help.
Lac Combal is the first aid station with solid food. I manage to eat a soup, drink some coke, and fill up my containers. Food is again a difficulty for me, as all I can see makes me feel nauseous. This is a repeat issue as I experienced the same during UTMF. Not sure of the root cause, but I will not be comfortable to join another long race before fixing this matter. Anyhow, I convinced myself to push through, at least until the first point where I would see my dad, at Col du petit Saint-Bernard (35.9km). This is a long section going down in a beautiful landscape, and could almost run it all the way, until it starts climbing again to the checkpoint. I was so happy to see my dad who motivated me to continue.
The following section is also a long slope going down for approximately 15km until Bourg Saint-Maurice (50.7Km) where I could get the first assistance. A good chance to recharge, rest, change socks and protect feet against blisters. The paths are full of mud in some sections, and it is difficult to avoid having wet feet, and sometimes the shoes get stuck in the mud. This condition will re-appear so often during the race, which does not help my feet to stay in a good condition.
After leaving the checkpoint, there is a very long and steep climb towards Passeur de Pralognan (62.2km). This is tough, and several runners will retire from the race at that point. Night is also starting, and temperatures drop quickly. I decide to stop to put warmer clothes and gloves, and put my headlamp, ankle signal, and carry a small torch. There are many cows in this area with their big bells making noise at each movement. The climb, then descent towards Cormet de Roseland (66.6km) is really difficult with many slippery sections, and a very steep descent requiring usage of ropes to avoid falling down. Some runners on the way became sick, and some doctors were coming down with some oxygen bottle. It was probably the time of the night where it was most difficult.
I arrived at Cormet de Roseland shortly before midnight. This is the place where runners can access their drop bags. I had prepared a full change of clothes, shoes, and additional food. As the cut-off time is at 1:00Am, I decided to change only socks and shoes, and rest a little. Night was so cold, but it was important to continue and remain motivated.
Next section was another steep slope towards Col de la Sauce (70km), then another descent, and another steep slope towards Col Est de la Gitte (78.4km).
This succession of steep ups and downs are really tough for the body and mind.
Follows a long descent towards Les Contamines (95.4km) where a 2nd assistance is allowed. Unfortunately the cut-off time was getting really close. I convinced a couple of Japanese runners to follow me and accelerate to avoid being late. My dad is ready since morning with fresh gear, food and drinks, but due to the time shortage, all I can do is drink some proteins, and some hydration solution. I cannot even change socks which are wet and dirty, but priority is to finish the race. It seems feasible, but the rest of the race is still very tough.
The next climb to Chalets du Truc (98.8km) is steep and long. In my mind, it will be easy after that. However, we go down again, before the last big climb to Col de Tricot (102.4km); this one is like a torture; looking at the top, I cannot believe it is possible. Time is also running quickly. I manage to follow the steps of another runner without looking at the top of the mountain. I'm so exhausted at that point of time.
Next descent towards Les Houches (111.2km) is also long and difficult, with several ups and downs, and crossing over a balanced bridge which was a bit scary.
Reaching Les Houches, there is 1h45m left before the final cut-off. Approximately 8km to run in a forest section with limited elevation. This is the same area I trained on my arrival in Chamonix. This helps, and the reality of finishing is getting clearer, but I cannot decrease the speed if I want to guarantee an arrival in Chamonix before 4Pm. Many people on the way cheer up runners, this is a great energy.
The last stretch in Chamonix is magic, and the view of the race gate is like heaven. I crossed the finish line in 32h33m21s. This is a big reward and relief. My body hurts and my legs can barely move, but it is time to enjoy, take pictures, and pick up the finishers vest.
Some Japanese friends are also there, this is amazing friendship !